How to Buy Used Video Production and Editing Equipment
Buying used video production and editing equipment can be a simple experience or a confusing nerve-wracking experience. An incredible number of choices are available for every possible aspect of video production and editing and prices range from very low to incredibly high. What components and price-range is correct for any given individual depends on a number of factors, including what kind of video production and editing is to be done, what the individual's skill level is, and what his or her budget may be.
Thankfully, video production and editing equipment does have a variable price range, from basic consumer to professional level quality and pricing. Additionally, used equipment is available from a wide variety of retailers. Physical stores abound in large and small cities that sell used consumer level hardware and software, and larger cities often have specialty stores that sell higher-end used equipment. Big-box retailers, however, will not have used equipment for sale. The Internet makes the full spectrum of purchasing possibilities available when purchasing used equipment, with sites like eBay leading the way.
Video Production Basics
Video production takes time, effort, creativity, equipment, and money. How much of any of these variables is needed depends on the video being produced and the intended purpose. All these variables, however, can be narrowed down into planning and equipment.
Planning requires time and creativity. Numerous scheduling software products and notebooks are available, and are beyond what can be covered here. However, a concept often used to plan how the story progresses and needs to be shot is called storyboarding, and is integral to the basic planning process of filmmaking.
Storyboards look similar to comic books in that the concept of a scene is laid out in small squares that give information about the scene and a general look and feel of the scene, often sketched out by hand. Storyboard software is available that assists users in creating storyboards that assist directors in organizing scene shots and mood. Storyboards are essential to ensure that all scenes are shot, especially since scenes are rarely shot in order. Storyboard software is not essential, as storyboards can be created by hand, but storyboard software is very convenient and useful, and well worth the small investment. Finding used storyboard software can be difficult, however. This is because of licensing issues and concerns of software piracy.
Equipment is the second factor in video production. For amateurs and small-budget films, there are three basic components needed in equipment; camera, lighting, and sound equipment.
In video production, a video camera is truly the only piece of equipment that is essential to have. The reasoning is quite simple; no camera, no video. Cameras come in several formats, both film and digital. Film cameras have been around a long time, with varying formats and models producing various degrees of quality, and digital is no different. Used film cameras provide a low cost entrance into video production, but few, if any manufacturers still make entry-level film cameras. Even new professional film cameras are few and far between, and film for all levels is becoming more difficult to come by.
Because of this, digital is the way to go; the look and feel of film can be achieved in post production if desired. However, not all digital cameras are created equal. Digital 8 format is designed to be compatible with the Hi 8 film format and is a lesser quality format that, until recently, was widely available in consumer-level video cameras. Mini - DV, DV and HD, both 720 p and 1080 i are becoming more affordable in the consumer level and the semi-professional level video cameras.
Lighting can make or break a video. If the scenes are not lit appropriately, the video produced will never be watched. If it is, it may be ridiculed and no video producer desires that. Video lighting and lighting modifiers can be expensive, however, so purchasing used lighting equipment can be very rewarding. The basic and intermediate levels of lighting techniques can be learned by reading lighting technique books and using experimentation.
If the camera is good, the lighting is good, the story is good, and the acting is good, the film stands a chance of being well received. However, many otherwise phenomenal amateur and low-budget films have been ruined by poor sound. Unfortunately, the camera's built-in microphone is rarely, if ever, the proper choice for recording the basic audio for a scene. Because of this, many cameras offer microphone inputs for attaching external microphones. Shotgun microphones are used for capturing audio of subjects in the distance that are on the move. Boom microphones are used for capturing audio in a scene that is shot from a slight distance with subjects that are only moving a little. Lavalier microphones are used for interview-style shots when handheld microphones are inappropriate, and handhelds are used for interviews in the field.
Gone are the days of hand-splicing strips of film to edit video. These days, all video is digitally edited, even if the video was shot on a film camera. PC or Macintosh computers and software are most often used to edit consumer, amateur, and semi-professional level videos, and many semi-professionals and professionals alike use dedicated hardware/software units to edit video. Whatever the choice, storage is an issue that must be considered.
PC or Mac
PC computers, running either a Windows operating system or a Linux distribution, and Macintosh computers are commonly used to edit digital video. A mudslinging war has been fought by manufacturers and users alike over which is better, but truth be told, both PC and Macintosh computers are equally up to the task. Macs do have a heads-up over PCs in that almost all Macs come ready to capture and edit video right out of the box. Some PCs will require additional hardware. This is only a factor if the camera used is using FireWire; Macs come with FireWire ports and most PCs do not. Many consumer-grade cameras these days use USB 2.0 connections and, as such, both Macs and PCs are ready to capture and edit video.
PC and Mac aside,
various components of hardware are important when choosing equipment for digital editing. Used PCs and Macs are available for a fraction of what new computers cost, with only a small sacrifice in performance.
Processors in the computer of choice need to be fast. However, even the fastest processors have trouble keeping up with the workload that digital editing can demand of them. Even more important than a fast processor is multiple processors. This allows multi-processor aware software to distribute the workload of the editing process between the processors, thereby producing results faster and reducing the likelihood of glitches and skips. Quad-core processors essentially have four processors in one unit, all producing the same amount of heat as a standard processor. Thus, fewer components are needed in the computer case to do four times the work. Combine quad-core processors with a motherboard that supports multiple processors and rendering time can be drastically reduced. This is assuming, of course, that the software being used knows how to properly use multiple processors.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is critical for video editing. Much of the real-time editing is performed in RAM and, as such, the more RAM available the better. RAM comes in a variety of types and sizes, and different motherboards will support different types of RAM. Choose a computer that accepts the fastest RAM modules available today and one that will accept a large number of RAM. For most PCs and Macs, this will be about 8 GB of RAM. If your hardware and operating system supports more than that, get it.
Hard drives are used to store video files, both long term and short term. As a video is played back, it is read from the hard drive into RAM. Video takes a considerable amount of bandwidth in the data transfer, and thus not all drives will work well. Spindle speed for the drive is an important factor, as is the data rate. Drives that are labeled 5400 RPM (rotations per minute) are more economical, but are not fast enough to read and write multiple video streams into memory without causing delay. Because of this, drives labeled 7200 RPM are needed. Unless, of course, the new solid - state hard drives are being used. These drives have no spindle and typically have a very high data rate. However, drive failure is more common on these drives.
Additionally, hard drives with the highest data rate available should be chosen when possible. However, the peak rate is of no consequence, as drives rarely hit this rate and when they do, do not sustain that speed for long. Look for sustained data rates as the benchmark in choosing hard drives for video editing.
Digital interface cards are used to transfer data between the camera and the computer. However, there are hundreds of different kinds of digital interface cards. The most common digital interfaces for digital video are FireWire and USB 2.0. Price ranges vary widely, but more expensive cards will have more ports and faster sustained data transfer rates. Be sure to match the interface card with the interface of the camera being used.
Cooling systems, both internal and external, are important in any computer and are especially critical in digital editing systems. Processors, RAM, and hard drives work longer and harder when editing digital video than in most other tasks a computer is likely to undertake. Because of this, components produce extreme heat. A large computer case with plenty of airflow is essential to a digital video editing system, and cooling fans for processors are a must. RAM fans and hard drive fans exist also, and are recommended. Water - cooled systems reduce heat more efficiently than standard air-cooled systems, often reduces editing time.
Video editing software is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. Each system has no-cost software, but the abilities of these software packages are limited. Paid-for software varies in features and ease-of-use, and both of these are represented in the cost of the software package. Typically, there are two kinds of editing software styles: storyboard and timeline. Some of the more expensive consumer and semi-professional software packages will allow the user to choose his or her preferred style.
Dedicated editing units are available, but are typically very expensive. These systems are professional grade, pre-configured hardware and software combinations produced by various video editing vendors. Being highly specialized units; these appliances are often capable of editing video at very high speeds. Unfortunately, used systems are rarely available for purchase.
Storage is an important factor to consider in digital video editing. Depending on the format used, storage requirements will vary. Something important to consider is that the storage requirements given in the chart below are the number of gigabytes per hour needed, per video stream. Therefore, an hour of video may be made up of six sets of videos, all cut up and blended together. If each original video is an hour long, then the amount of storage needed for the resulting hour of final footage is seven hours; six for each hour-long original video and one for the final rendering of the finished product. Compression of the finished product can reduce some of this storage load, but is not always desired.
ProRes 422 1920×1080
ProRes 422 HQ 1920×1080
HD Video at 720p provides the least amount of storage space requirements per hour of video, while ProRes 422 High Quality at 1920×1080 pixels consumes the most. Other formats, and the native compressions they employ, require various storage requirements per hour of footage.